A Pinch of Portugal is here to serve European realness on Hallmark as part of the network’s spring movie lineup. Heather Hemmens stars as the prep cook for a fiery Not-Food-Network star — but is it time for her to step out of the back kitchen and in front of the camera? That’s not the only question worth asking. Should you spend a lovely spring night watching this movie? Do you want a heaping helping of A Pinch of Portugal, or is even a pinch too much?
A PINCH OF PORTUGAL: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Heather Hemmens (Roswell, New Mexico) plays Anna, a self-taught chef who landed a gig as prep cook on a TV show hosted by a major celebrity chef (played by British actor/presenter Darren Day). That chef is every bit as temperamental and territorial as you would imagine, which explains why the network is having a hard time negotiating his contract for Season 7 and why the crew is nervous about making any decisions about their trip to Portugal while they wait for Chef Dean to arrive. But as Dean’s arrival date in Portugal gets pushed back further and further, the crew — which includes Luke Mitchell (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as a hunky Australian cameraman — leans more and more on Anna to take the lead. She’s got good ideas, like incorporating local food markets and traditions into the show’s Portugal episodes. Is she… a natural at this?
This being a Hallmark movie, though, you know things aren’t that easy! Not only does working closely with Russ (Mitchell) reignite a romantic spark, there’s also a super hot food vendor (Duarte Gomes) vying for her attention and there’s also Chef Dean’s impending return. He’s fired prep cooks for looking at him wrong. How is he going to react to Anna accidentally taking over his show?!
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: I have seen neither movie, but after reading their synopses I have decided that A Pinch of Portugal has a bit of Julie & Julia and a dash of Under the Tuscan Sun in it.
Performance Worth Watching: Okay, it could just be my general attraction to silver-haired men and English accents, but I’m giving this to Darren Day. He really has the peak Gordon Ramsay intensity down and is incredibly believable as a charismatic celebrity chef.
Memorable Dialogue: Also great in her role is Amy Louise Pemberton (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) as a producer and consummate professional. While planning the Portugal trip, she says, “We need vegetables, not variables.”
Our Take: A Pinch of Portugal is a Hallmark romcom set on difficult mode. Not only did this movie presumably whisk the cast (and production) away from the Canadian towns and backlots they’re used to navigating, but it also dared to tell a believable story about professional adults whose profession (making a TV show) involves another profession (cooking). Mind you, a Hallmark movie about the prep chef who fills in for the lead and falls for the hot cameraman need not be set in Portugal, nor does it even have to attempt to have gorgeous scenery, well-rounded co-workers, or delicious looking food. Somehow, A Pinch of Portugal succeeds in all of these areas.
And I’m serious about the food. This isn’t like Game of Love, a (fun!) movie about board game designers that doesn’t even attempt to understand how modern board games are developed or even work. The food in this movie looks super appetizing, and Anna’s ideas actually make sense for the kind of TV show she’s working on.
Really, the depiction of adult working relationships in this movie, colleagues who act like colleagues, and characters with quirks who are still good at their job, is what won me over. Hallmark movies aren’t exactly known for their veracity, nor are they known for having fully-formed ensembles (the problem with The Professional Bridesmaid). I buy that all of these people, from Anna and Russ to producer Hope and prickly editor Brooklyn (Johnna Dias-Watson), are co-workers. And considering that the main conflict in this movie is about Anna believing in herself enough to take control of her career, a career that hinges upon working well with others, this is a movie where the lead and the plot benefit from a strong support system. It’s just cool to see!
It’s also cool to see a Hallmark movie truly keep you guessing about its romantic trajectory. We find out early on that Anna and Russ have a history, but then Anna hits it off with the equally handsome Lucas (Gomes). She has chemistry with both of these men, and you can easily see a Hallmark movie where each of them is the sole love interest. Instead, this adds a really nice wrinkle to the Hallmark formula. I’m honestly shocked that more Hallmark romances don’t have incredibly competitive love triangles at the center?
Take all of this mature character work and set it against gorgeous Portugal and, wow, you have a Hallmark movie that gives you all feels to savor but it uses a new recipe to cook them up.
Our Call: STREAM IT. A Pinch of Portugal is like going on a European vacation without leaving your living room.